Poverty in Africa

Akello lives in a 25 square feet room in Kisoro, Uganda. To save money, he skips his breakfast as much as he can tolerate the hunger. A bottle of clean water is not abnormal on his Christmas gift list. He has never seen a computer in his life. No doubt that in his school there is no technology, either. The desk can’t stay stable while he is trying to do his work in class and he doesn’t have a well-functioning pencil. Every day he walks through a street full of homeless people, broken pieces of cloth on the body, dirt within the hair, vacancy in the eyes, only seeming lively compared to their kraurotic and malnourished skin, as if the happiness and hope of life has been sucked out of their soul. Without access to proper health care, a visit by disease can mean death. Little does Akello know about the other parts of the world where poverty does not plague that children at the same age as him have the access to fresh food, clean water and at least warm clothes.

A paragraph can’t fully describe the somber of Akello’s life. What’s more, he is only one small drop of water in the ocean of people who are bothered by poverty. In fact, as seen on globalissues.org, over 1.4 billion people live less than $1.25 a day. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 2 children is poor around the world. Poverty is most severe in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And “they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

Poverty holds back the society. It is a deal-breaker to individuals’ basic health. It is a speed brake on the road of educational advancement. It is a resistance within the economy gear. First of all, in individual level, poverty may prevent one from clean water, fresh food and warm clothes, letting alone fair education, access to healthcare and even technology. According to Globalissues.org, “Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water”. If a person’s basic needs cannot even be fulfilled, how can they guarantee their life quality? If a person gets caught up every day just collecting water, what fun can they have for life? Imagine waking up cold, belly empty and the situation won’t improve throughout the day, or tomorrow, or years to come.

Calvin Ramsey (Calvin Ramsey lives in Alabama with his wife, Louise, and two of their children. Calvin earns about $7.50 an hour doing maintenance work and Louise works at a local motel, earning about the same): When I can’t give my family the things that they truly deserve, it really destroys me. I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and it runs it up quickly.”

In under-developed countries, there are usually few work opportunities and the society isn’t able to supply labor because of poverty, disease and poor education, thus this unemployment contributes to little economic growth. In return, this kind of vicious cycle makes the poverty even more rooted. People who live below poverty line are forced into a desperate state of mind that they will do anything to get fed or get dressed, as a result of which they may develop underground illegal economy to satisfy what they need, such as wildlife trade or drug dealing. In the deep ghetto street in Philadelphia, as described by the author Elijah Anderson of Code of the Street, “With widespread joblessness, many inner-city people become stressed and their communities become distressed. Poor people adapt to these circumstances in the ways they know, meeting the exigencies of their situation at best they can. The kinds of problems that trigger moral outrage begin to emerge: teen pregnancy, welfare dependency, and then underground economy.” (110-111) At the same time, violence and disruption may arise from the underground economy. When the basic life standard cannot be met, the society becomes normless and laws start to lose power. Poverty not only harms individual’s health but also poses a great threat to the stableness of the society.

Poverty wreaks havoc mentally. If people can’t even afford food, drink and clothes, they of course wouldn’t be able to afford educational resources. Without access to books, technology such as online learning resources and educators, people who live below poverty line don’t know where to learn and how to learn, making them poor in material and also in knowledge. According to Globalissues.org, “Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.” Given limited education, people may not be able to verbalize what they need or effectively master the skills needed for life such as what kind of food is healthy and well-nourished. What’s more, education is necessary for jobs. Without education, there are only low-capital, repetitive, numb manufacturing jobs available for them while they can’t even feed themselves.

Furthermore, its side effect does not fade away in a long term, either. Poverty can be tatted onto generations, influencing decades. As we can see above, children are suffering the most from the poverty. They don’t receive the food, drink or clothes needed for life. They don’t have necessary health care. They don’t have play time to develop their emotional and psychological health. According to the article “5 ways poverty harms children” by David Murphey, Zakia Redd, they point out that poor children suffer from a higher possibility of mal-function brain and other body parts. “Children who experience poverty have an increased likelihood, extending into adulthood, for numerous chronic illnesses, and for a shortened life expectancy.” (par1) Children are our future and while children in our world couldn’t get the essentials of life, couldn’t receive quality education and health care, the next coming decades are without doubt a problem.

Reflecting on all the negative effect poverty brings to us, we can’t help but ask one question: how did this big poverty issue come into existence and how do we combat it? As for the causes, different countries have their own unique answers. On the website Focus-economics.com, a leading provider of economic analysis and forecasts, several countries make the list of the world’s poorest countries with their different reasons. Democratic Republic of Congo rules the list as its GDP per capita makes the lowest on the list. According to the website, despite the abundant natural resources Congo could have utilized to make economic growth, the unstable political power is blocking the people of Congo from reaching a better GDP level. Centuries of colonial exploitation come into play as well. Foreign and domestic corrupted forces all want a piece of the advantageous natural resources Congo possesses, among whom the dictatorial ruler Joseph Kabila steals most of the foreign aid to his country and manipulates his people’s property in his own hands. In his blog “Rich in Resources but Why Is the Democratic Republic of Congo Poor?” Connor Keowen, summarized the reasons behind Congo’s poverty as “These powers have worked hard to make sure the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain poor, unhealthy and disenfranchised; unable to take control of their own country and the incredible resources it possesses.” (par 6)

Let’s take a look at another world’s poorest country –Uganda. Haley Hurtt points out in her blog “The Main Causes of Poverty in Uganda” that one of the leading causes on poverty in Uganda is extreme reliability on agriculture industry. Without other industries supporting Uganda’s economy, the unstable nature of agriculture—highly dependent on the weather, vulnerable to natural diseases—and fallen behind agriculture technology help Uganda to stay poor. In addition, diseases in Uganda has become the number one killer around the country. “Infant and child mortality rates remain high, with 131 deaths per 1,000 births.” (par 4) Many families in Uganda either can’t afford proper health care or don’t even have access to a decent health care institution. In all, the reasons for poverty in Uganda mainly come from the structure of their economy and the situation of wide-spread diseases.

Since the causes of the poverty for each country differ, the solutions for each country are different. The solution is relative to the reasons causing poverty in that country. As for most under-developed countries, the main problems causing poverty are the societal peace/ stableness, the lack of technology, underproduced or ill-produced resources and insufficient education. We need to dedicate our efforts to ensure human rights and world peace first in order to preserve the primary condition of a prosperous society. If the country has too simple industry structure, more advanced technology should be introduced to create new jobs and improve efficiency for the workforce. For example, modern technology in agriculture such as temperature sensors and harvesting robots is extremely beneficial to farmers with better outcome and increased efficiency, preventing ill-nurtured crops and food waste. More advanced technology including big machinery applied in mining industry can also help with higher exploitation of the resources so that more profit and more economic value can be created. Last but not the least, the government should pay more attention to the well-being of children, not only to the health care but also to the education. Healthy children become healthy adults, who are able to work and return better to the society. “good health and adequate nutrition are not only important factors in themselves, but they also raise workers’ productivity and earnings which ultimately enhance economic empowerment of the household.” (Abrar ul haq& Mohd& Gazi, 2018, par 4) Solutions such as building primary care institutions and investing more on education creates a healthy tomorrow for children, gives children more necessary knowledge to survive and helps them “participate in decision-making at all levels.” (UNICEF, par 4)

The strategy of paying more attention to children applies to developed countries as well. Research shows that ‘a one percentage point increase in the proportion of a metropolitan area’s working age population with a college degree is associated with a 2.3 percent increase in GDP per capita’ (Abel & Gabe, 2008, p. 10). As for developed countries, focus will be more on higher education, on how to share knowledge to make people have more economic mobility and have higher entrepreneurial ability. What’s more, more employment opportunities can help deal with poverty. Secure-paying jobs give people hope for the future and help build their sense of decency, thus protecting them from falling into underground economy in the need of survival. The current solution to create new jobs is to put tariff on international trade, hoping the good old days when manufacturing jobs and some white-collar jobs are were easy to come by would return. “The better approach is to adopt policies that help those who are displaced by economic change.” (Besharov& Douglas, 2009, conclusion) The right way to adapt economic change is to help workers gain essential skills to fit in the new working environment. There are various other ways to create jobs instead of running a risk of building international tension such as rebuilding our infrastructure, developing renewable energy sources and renovating abandoned housing. Creating new jobs can make ends meet with the loss of jobs brought by economic changes. Rebuilding and renovating the buildings and infrastructure in the society nurtures a stronger atmosphere of community as well. At the same time, reforming the criminal justice system and enacting policies that support successful re-entry can be beneficial.

Many inmates can’t find a job after getting out of prison because of their criminal records, as a result of which they would wind up doing illegal business again since the wider society doesn’t show acceptance to them. The same goes to racial inequality that results in injustice in criminal justice system where black people especially young males are more likely being sentenced to more severe punishments. While they are serving in jail, their families who are usually poor mother, grandmother and children become even more unable to maintain a life without the presence of a strong male and more vulnerable to street elements where violent emerges and poverty prevails. Therefore, reforming the criminal justice system alleviates the burden of racial inequality and posing policies that help re-entry to job markets prevents people falling back to their old bad habits, thus creating a better work environment with equal job opportunities and jobs help with poverty. Protests nowadays are moving the reforming forward and more continuous dedication is definitely needed.

Poverty is a global issue that concerns to everybody since we live under the same sky and enjoy the same human rights. It is also an issue that more people participated, better outcomes we are going to have. In recent years, the United Nations and other charitable organizations have been actively improving the global poverty issue. Through their collective efforts, half of the people living under poverty line have been helped onto a better living condition. According to MDGmonitor.org, “In 1990, 1.9 billion people were said to be living in extreme poverty, compared to 836 million in 2015. Most progress was seen in the new millennium.” More and more children now can receive proper health care and enjoy learning new knowledge. More and more food and water are being transported to help people in need out. More and more love and responsibilities are shared by joint efforts to reduce poverty.

To make even better progress, customized solutions need to be applied to specific country instead of same approach being applied to every country. For developing countries with abundant resources, the introduction of modern technology can be advantageous. If without great resources to utilize, investment on education and health can be brought in by foreign aid or other industries’ help. For developed countries, the main focus will be how to create more jobs and better the educational and criminal system. Although different countries have different solutions, a better future together still requires joint efforts. Make it our own responsibility to contribute to this global poverty issue and share a more caring global society.